The hamstrings consist three sets of muscles. They are biceps femoris, the semitendinosus, and the semimembranosus. They are located at the back of the thigh and extend from the hip joint to the knee joint. A hamstring strain can occur due to overstretching of the legs; it is quite a common injury among runners. It can happen while running on a slopped road or sprinting downhill, as the muscles get extended too much in order to maintain the balance of a running stride. It can also occur because of foot imbalance while running. Stretching exercises increase the flexibility of the muscles, thereby, increasing the level of the athlete's performance.
Stretches for Flexibility
Here we are going to discuss some easy to do exercises that can be helpful in improving the elasticity of the tight hamstring muscles. Thus, you will be able to run long distances without bothering about muscle pain.
Basic Stretching Exercise
You can do this exercise with a seated position. For that, a wooden chair is preferable. Sit on the chair such that your buttocks are on the edge of the chair. Begin extending your right leg, while keeping the left leg bent at 90 degrees. Flex the toes of your right leg, keep the hands on your right thigh, and bend your torso forward from your hips. Ensure that your spine is erect and keep bending forward until you feel some tension in your hamstring. Stop at the point of the stretch and hold the position for about 30 seconds. Repeat the same steps for your left leg and complete the exercise.
An exercise ball is a popularly used stretching equipment. Lie on your back on the floor and place your heels firmly on the exercise ball. Now, lift your hips off the floor. This will put your entire body weight upon the shoulders. You can extend your hands sideways for a better support for the shoulders. Then try to bring the feet closer to your body by bending the knees and thus, the ball will also move closer to you. Then extend the legs again, so that you can get into the initial position. Repeat the curling and stretching of the knees for at least five times.
Using a Machine
You can stretch your legs with the help of stretching machine. It consists of a padded bench with two wings attached to it, which are also cushioned with soft pads. The machine stretches the muscles of the inner thigh region by increasing the angular measure between the two legs. You have to sit on the bench and place the legs on the two wings. You have to control, manually, the angle between the legs as per your requirements. You can let the machine stretch your legs with an intensity with respect to your comfort.
For Knee Pain
When you are suffering from pulled hamstrings, you are bound to get a bad knee pain. At that time, you can try out these stretches. Sit on the floor comfortably with both the legs stretched in the front. Lean your body forward with hands extended, in order to reach the toes, as far as possible, without bending the knees.
Hold the stretch for a minute and then slowly return to the original position. Instead of keeping both the legs straight, you can bend the left leg in such a way that the sole of the left foot touches the inner thigh of the right leg. Now, bend and try to reach the right foot while keeping the right leg straight. Keep the posture for a minute and then come back to the sitting posture. Repeat the same for the right leg as well.
It is advisable to do the above workouts after a run to get more effective results. While doing the stretches, care should be taken that they are done slowly. Moreover, you should stretch your hamstrings as much as you are comfortable and do not push yourself too hard, as it may lead to a serious injury.